ASPEN, Colo. – One collector’s lifelong passion for the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany will be on display for the entire world to enjoy in what’s being called the grandest exhibit on the world’s greatest glass artist.
Carl Heck has spent the last 35 years researching, collecting and selling Tiffany-made glass worldwide. His passion for the glass introduced him to institutions, the world’s greatest collectors and dazzling events, but nothing could prepare him for one museum’s plan to spread Tiffany’s talent across three nations on two continents. The exhibition, titled “Tiffany: Color and Light,” was conceived by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and organized in collaboration with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) and the Musée du Luxembourg.
The exhibition debuted at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris in September and will then travel to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for a showing from Feb. 11 to May 2, 2010. The American premiere will be at the VMFA in Richmond, Va., beginning May 29.
The exhibit is the first Paris show in more than 100 years to focus only on the work of the renowned designer who achieved original and spectacular effects in hand-blown glass vessels, leaded glass windows and lamps, and other decorative objects.
Heck was on hand for the Paris launch as a courtesy for lending three of his prized possessions for the exhibit. He was treated as a guest of the French government during his stay: State dinners; council with foreign diplomats; an orchestra concerts surrounded by Monet masterpieces. Heck brought his 19-year-old daughter with him to Paris for the opening of the exhibition. It was a special treat since she is studying art history at the University of Colorado at Denver.
Heck said the exhibit will be an important contribution to the world’s understanding of who Tiffany was, what his work means to the arts and how he continues to influence design to this very day.
The exhibit “is really part of expanding the view of Tiffany,” Heck told Antique Trader in an exclusive interview. “So few people really know what a Tiffany lamp is. They see a lamp at Pizza Hut and think it’s that. No, it’s certainly not.
“This exhibit is also about the big massive pieces that people didn’t know Tiffany made.”
Heck is a private dealer of stained glass windows, one who keeps a low profile and maintains the utmost confidentiality with his clients. His business is called Carl Heck Decorative Arts and is located online at www.carlheck.com.
One of the main centerpieces in the exhibit is one of Heck’s Tiffany stained glass windows. The piece, titled The Mermaid, is composed of six separate panels.
“It’s 9 feet tall and 9 feet wide and came from a mansion in Hawaii,” Heck said. “The window was shown in Japan, the Nassau County Museum in Roslyn, N.Y., and at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library … and at these three museums.”
The other pieces from Heck’s collection include a collage with the image of a clock face and a lantern purchased six years ago – a rare find in Miami.
The three are part of the exhibition’s approximately 170 objects that include blown-glass vessels; lamps; leaded-glass windows; and decorative objects such as mosaics, bronzes and jewelry; along with paintings, watercolors, architectural elements and silver. Four of the windows, created for the Erskine and American United Church in Montreal, have never before been shown in the United States.
Items are even on loan from Russia and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
According to the Musée du Luxembourg, the exhibit is divided into six themes. The first will examine the beginnings of Tiffany’s career: his stays in Europe (especially in Paris, where he studied paintings in the studio of Léon-Charles Bailly), then his increasing interest in the art of glass and his work as an interior designer for influential American clients. Next, the exhibit reviews his relations with the Parisian art dealer Siegfried Bing, who is credited with spreading Tiffany’s creations across Europe.
A significant portion of the exhibit will focus on the stained-glass windows, a major – however unrecognized – element of his production, as well as Favrile vases with organic shapes and striking color contrasts.
The final aspect of the exhibit touches on a more practical but ever-so-crucial development in Tiffany’s career: business. Tiffany’s development of the business, based on the selling of lamps and decorative items, contributed to strengthen his popularity worldwide.
The VMFA will be the only American museum to show the exhibition, which will continue through Aug. 15. The exhibit will be the first major exhibition to be shown there after its grand opening, scheduled for May 1, of the James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Wing, which is now under construction.
“Visitors to the exhibition will see first-hand evidence of Tiffany’s love of exoticism, rich ornament, fine craftsmanship, and the abstract qualities of color that placed him squarely in many of the artistic movements of his time, from Arts and Crafts and the American Aesthetic Movement to Art Nouveau and Symbolism,” said Barry Shifman, the VMFA’s Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Decorative Arts from 1890 to the Present.
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